Coming home is somewhat anticlimactic. I ditched the car as soon as I got inside New York City proper, safe in the knowledge that it'll be gone long before anyone thinks to look for a stolen North Carolina car up here. From there it's a hop, skip, and a subway ride back to the warehouse I call home. Just me, my pillow case full of weapons, and my two day old tux. I'm not ashamed to admit that I reek, but I was more concerned with getting back than stopping for a shower. At least it means no one sits next to me on the subway.
Walking through the door takes me directly into a hug and I'm tempted to ask Niko if he'd been standing there the entire time. Before I get the chance he pulls back and wrinkles his nose at me, “You need a shower. I bought new toothpaste.”
And that's that. I drop my pillow case of deadly things on the couch on my way to the bathroom and when I come back out freshly showered they're spread out on the table. Along with a note saying that Niko went out for food. I carefully check everything over while he's gone to make sure the unexpected trip into the ocean and days spent under a mattress didn't hurt them. My timing is perfect because Niko walks in with an armload of pizza just as I finish.
I know then that he's still feeling guilty, but I can't say anything. It's not something I can absolve him of after all, “Let me guess, spinach and goat cheese?”
“Your nose is good for something,” is his response as he drops the pizzas on the table. I'm slightly worried as I take a deep breath, but in addition to the spinach I can smell something with lots of meat. My first night back isn't too bad. Pizza and nature documentaries with my brother, it may not be the most traditional of combinations but it works for us. He doesn't ask about Nevah's Landing and I don't tell.
The next day as I'm heading out to the Ninth Circle to talk to Ishiah about my schedule I notice the white board. It's not something I normally pay attention to, but human-Cal had. Niko had originally put it up as a joke, but the other me hadn't known that. He'd just seen the two things written on my side: 1) Sit on ass 2) Kill things. I remember him thinking it was sad. His entire life summed up in five words that really amounted to nothing. Which is why, I think, I find myself picking up one of the pens and writing 3) Fix window, because it was still broken and after a moment of thought to the lack of dirty laundry greeting me last night, 4) Do laundry.
It's wasn't a guarantee, I was a lazy bastard by nature, but maybe I could do my own laundry on a semi-regular basis.
Walking into the Ninth Circle was strange, amusing as well, but strange. I'd been hanging out there looking, acting, and smelling human and now I was back. The wolves in the back took one sniff of me and quietly slinked out the door, leaving puddles of piss in their wake. A few of the other regulars suddenly decided to go sit at tables rather than the bar. Kill a few people by accident and suddenly no one wants to sit near you.
Ishiah just looks at me before nodding his head, “You're late.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I gripe before walking behind the bar and grabbing an apron. “Would you believe I didn't remember I was suppose to open today?”
He doesn't respond, but I didn't really expect him to. That's okay because there are drinks to make and people to glare at.
Robin saunters in a few hours later. If I hadn't been looking at the door I never would've noticed his brief pause of surprise at seeing me behind the bar. I reach down to grab a glass for him, but he waves me off, “Not yet. I am merely here to prove my commitment to monogamy.”
I try not to think of what that entails as he throws a handful of his new business cards down and goes into the back room. From the looks on everyone else's faces I figure I have future of resigning myself to my boss and my best friend having sex in the store room. Repressing a shudder takes some effort, but I manage in time to poor a beer for the first werewolf who's been brave enough to walk up to me today.
That it's Delilah doesn't surprise me at all, “No more sheep?”
“No more venom,” I correct. I don't elaborate because I'm still not sure where the killer goes and where the sheep goes. Or if there even is a sheep somewhere besides my brother and he's a ninja sheep any wolf would run from.
She sips her beer for a second before leaning in close and sniffing me, I allow it because there are certain liberties exes are allowed, even exes like Delilah, but I put the muzzle of my gun against her sternum when she tries to bite my ear. “Don't make me tell you again, Delilah.”
She pulls back to nip the air in front of my nose and tosses some money on the counter, “No sheep.”
I'm watching her walk away when Robin comes back to the bar. He's got feathers in his hair and his tie is undone, but he still tries to grab the money sitting out, “I can get a fork.”
I'm a good enough friend not to laugh at how fast he snatches his hand back, but it doesn't stop him from glaring at me, “I already have one revenge to plan against you, don't push your luck.”
“How's Spartacus?” The glare gets worse and this time I do laugh.
“They will tell stories of your foolishness down through the ages,” Robin vows as he sweeps out the door. I take it to mean that Spartacus is dead and well and still tearing apart his new home. I'll admit that I'm somewhat worried about just what Robin will do, but there's no use worrying over it. He'll do it regardless.
Sometime latter Promise walks in. I smile at her and pour a glass of wine as she sits on a stool at the bar. She takes a sip, “Niko told me you'd returned Caliban.”
“Last night.” I wipe the bar down with a rag as we settle into an uncomfortable silence. I'm not the best at reading people, but I can tell that she's still feeling guilty about what she said at the party. “Thanks.”
She looks at me with surprise clear on her face, “For what?”
“For putting Niko first,” I grin at her, she smiles back, and just like that the discomfort disappears. Promise and I may not have a lot in common, but we can agree on Niko. It's enough.
She stays until I get off and Niko appears just as we're walking out the door. We share a look of exasperation at that because he was probably standing across the street for the past hour.
“Dinner?” Niko asks as he takes Promise's arm and starts walking down the street.
It's clear he's including me in the offer, “Nah, you two kids go spend some time alone.” Promise gives me a look of gratitude and I start jogging down the street before Niko can protest, “There's left over pizza in the fridge. I'll be fine.”
He looks between the two of us and shrugs before giving into the inevitable. I'm back. Life is as normal as it can be for a half-human, half-Auphe hybrid. I'll be fine.